Six members of a fringe church in Kansas picketed Thursday outside the funeral of a Minnesota soldier who was killed in Iraq, leading to a heated exchange with the grieving mother. The six men and women, standing outside the Anoka funeral for Cpl. Andrew Kemple, 23, who died Feb. 12 after his vehicle came under fire, are members of a church in Topeka, Kan., that espouses the belief that God is killing American soldiers because they fought for a country that tolerates homosexuality.
They were countered by a group of 20 affiliated with the Patriot Guard Riders, a rapidly growing nationwide movement organized to offset the fringe group's message.
"We're just trying to show honor and respect for families," said John Lutsch, a St. Cloud resident who heads the Minnesota branch of the Patriot Guard. "I was appalled when I read about these protests, that they'd use a solemn occasion like this as a forum for their views."
He was interrupted by Steve Drain, who bellowed that God hates gays and their enablers and "so, therefore, God hates the U.S. military."
According to an account reported by the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, about a half-hour before the service, Deirdre Ostlund, Kemple's mother, approached the six Kansans and told them in a cold fury: "I'm Andrew's mother and I want you to know you are truly hateful people." As Ostlund turned away to enter Zion Lutheran Church, Shirley Phelps-Roper taunted her: "Adulterer! You can't admit you sent your own child to hell! If she does not heed this warning, she will look up from hell with him."
Phelps-Roper is the daughter of Fred Phelps, the pastor of the nondenominational Westboro Baptist Church. During the 1990s, church members were known mostly for picketing funerals of AIDS victims.
My question is three-pronged:
Part The First: What is with the fundamentalist viewpoint that every bad thing that happens is as a result of "God's Punishment" for sin?
Part The Second: Why haven't they clued into the fact that their list of culpable connections is a bit tenuous? Dead Soldiers-Iraq-USA-Gays-God's Fury. I don't really see the logical progression.
Part The Third: Assuming their belief that God delivers punishment for sin on a global scale, why have they not considered the possibility that God is killing US soldiers in Iraq because America is a country that tolerates a**holes doing evil, unkind things at funerals in his name?